The classic vampire claim is that they can’t come into your house until you let them. Kept outside, they can do nothing. Left inside, they will drain your life. Though Hollywood has turned most vampire stories into gory bloodbaths, this wasn’t always the case. Some of the earliest stories (such as Bram Stoker’s classic work) were deeply connected with Christianity, with the vampire as the figure of Satan or at least of sin. It was meant to shock the reader into recognizing the seriousness and horror of what sin does.
This doorway metaphor echoes biblical imagery. Right before Cain killed his brother, God reminded him that “sin crouches at the door; its desire is for you, and you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7) Sin is the ultimate vampire, the one that wants in to drain our souls.
These spiritual vampires that crouch at the door of my heart want me to be harsh in my home; they want me to love money and fame; they want me to ignore God; they want me to reject the guidelines of the Bible; they want me to overlook my friends and hate my enemies; they want me to objectify people and love things. They want me to shame the name of Jesus in my testimony.
Thanks to Jesus, the most it can do is crouch at the door of my life. But I still have my free will, and I can still choose to whom I open the door of my heart.
This isn’t the only time the Bible uses this image: When John records in Revelation 3 that God says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” he was talking to the church – the Christians - of Laodicea. They needed to continue to open the door of their heart.
I need Jesus as much after my salvation as I did before. That’s what I want to talk about today: how, after salvation, God has a plan in place for us to help us resist the ongoing temptation of the sin that so easily besets us (Hebrews 12:1).
After we visit our local hospital or doctor for a particular ailment, we learn about ‘after care’; that is, what we need to do so that what the doctor has made new will continue to flourish. This is called compliance:
“Accepting life-saving treatment. The extent to which a person’s behavior coincides with medical advice. Adaptation or adherence to medical advice.”(d3jonline.tripod.com)
We can undermine our newfound health. In medical terms, this is called non-compliance.
- “A patient who does not follow the doctors' orders is called a non-compliant patient.” (from Wiki Answers)
- “We eat foods that kill us, we don't stick to our exercise regimens, and we don't follow our doctors' orders, even when we remember what they tell us. If you ask people whether it's smart to get a colonoscopy if the doctor says you need one, no one's going to say no… but no one wakes up and says, 'Yes, today is a good day for a colonoscopy.'" (“Mind Your Body: Doctor’s Orders – Without Distress.” (www.psychologytoday.com)
Granted, some people have had bad experiences with doctors whose diagnosis or after care were deeply flawed. For the sake of this analogy, let's assume we are talking about a doctor who has given an accurate diagnosis and a true course of after care (we are moving toward our involvement with the Great Physician after all...gotta keep this analogy on track!)
Non-compliance is a huge problem because obedience is hard!
Assume that the doctor gave a blueprint for ongoing health. For whatever reasons, we just have a hard time following even if the advice is spot on. “I’m not that sick…My doctor doesn’t understand…it’s so complicated…but fried food is the nectar of the gods.” So even though we were freed from whatever ailed us and are given new life, we can flounder when we could be flourishing.
We do the same thing spiritually. “I’m not that sick… it’s so complicated…surely God wants me to be happy, and THIS makes me happy.” So even though we were freed from the sin that was killing us and were given new life, we can flounder when we could be flourishing.
“Where do you think your fighting and endless conflict come from? Don’t you think that they originate in the constant pursuit of gratification that rages inside each of you like an uncontrolled militia? You crave something that you do not possess, so you murder to get it. You desire the things you cannot earn, so you sue others and fight for what you want. You do not have because you have chosen not to ask. And when you do ask, you still do not get what you want because your motives are all wrong—because you continually focus on self-indulgence.
You are spiritual adulterers. Don’t you know that loving this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God. Do you think it is empty rhetoric when the Scriptures say, “The spirit that lives in us is addicted to envy and jealousy”? You may think that the situation is hopeless, but God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests. That’s why Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud, but He pours out grace on the humble.’
So submit yourselves to the one true God and fight against the devil and his schemes. If you do, he will run away in failure. Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other. (James 4:1-8)
There is a dance between what God does for us and what God asks us to do. David asked God to create a clean heart in him (Psalm 51:10); here, James tells people to cleanse their heart. We know that God helps us resist temptation (“Deliver us from the Evil One" – Matthew 6:13), yet we have to fight too (“God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests”).
There is a war of love that rages in our hearts. Proverbs tells us to guard it, because everything in our life flows from it (Proverbs 4:23). I read a book last year by James K.A. Smith entitled You Are What You Love. It was a deeply challenging book in many ways; here’s one snippet of what he had to say.
“To be human is to be animated and oriented by some vision of the good life, some picture of what we think counts as “flourishing.” And we want that. We crave it. We desire it. This is why our most fundamental mode of orientation to the world is love. We are oriented by our longings, directed by our desires.
We adopt ways of life that are indexed to such visions of the good life, not usually because we “think through” our options but rather because some picture captures our imagination. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, succinctly encapsulates the motive power of such allure: “If you want to build a ship,” he counsels, “don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
What if you are defined not by what you know but by what you desire? What if the center and seat of the human person is found not in the heady regions of the intellect but in the gut-level regions of the heart? It’s not just that I “know” or “believe” [in some end design to life]. More than that, I long for some end. I want something, and want it ultimately. It is my desires that define me. In short, you are what you love.”
What we do with what crouches or knocks at the door of our heart will depend a lot on who or what we love. How we experience the new life that God offers us through Jesus is going to be deeply influenced by how much we work with God in doing the hard work of re-ordering our loves. Since James talks about loving the world and loving ourselves, let’s contrast that to love for God.
LOVE OF SELF/WORLD LOVE FOR GOD
Eye for an Eye Forgiveness
Self-sufficient Asks for Help
Boasts in self Boasts in Christ
Loves the Stage Loves to Build It
Winning Arguments Winning people
Self-justification Christ’s justification
Self-righteous judgment Compassionate love
We know what we love by our thoughts, our daydreams, our fears, our time and energy, our money. It’s what we think is part of the good life, so we order our lives around those things. We adopt a way of life that centers on its fulfillment. And we get incredibly defensive when some calls us out, because it shakes us. We can’t imagine life without it.
Time for an honest self-check: In the following list, what do you love more – I don’t mean in your words, but in how our order your life? What do you long for? Which one do you think represents the good life? For which one of these have you adopted a way of life that centers around its fulfillment?
One thing that stands out to me: a life characterized by love of God looks very, very compelling. That’s why His yoke of obedience is easy, and his burden of sacrifice is light (Matthew 11:30). It’s hard, but it’s easy and light because it brings goodness and the life more abundant that Jesus promised (John 10:10).
So, how do we reorder our loves and experience the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13)?
First, pray for God to do the work only God can do. He must create a new heart in you.
Second, repent of your disordered loves and commit your ways to Jesus. Walk in obedience.
Third, focus on Jesus. Read the gospels. Study the person and work of Jesus. Sing about Jesus. Pray in worship of Jesus. Commit yourself to living in the path of life that Jesus has laid out for us. That must include filling yourself with truth, which is can be found not just in Scripture but in teachings, books, podcasts, counseling, and mentoring.
When we hear those competing knocks on the doors of our heart, let’s let the right one in.